A few years after Catie died, a friend invited me to lunch. We met at small restaurant, ordered burgers, and talked weather and sports. Then he dove deeper.
He opened up about his struggle coping with a house full of babies and toddlers. The kids had stolen his comfortable lifestyle, robbed him of sleep and freedom, and his budget was tight. In his frustration, he thought of Catie and our life without her. That thought shocked him into a new reality. What if one of his children died? He realized anew that God had entrusted these wonderful children to him. He wanted me to know that he now thanked God for his kids and had committed to becoming a better dad.
He thanked me for his new perspective and his renewed love for his children – yet I had done nothing. But God had! He had used the pain of Catie’s death to refine my friend and deepen his faith. That is only one little story. Only eternity will tell how many times God used her life and death to influence others.
Peter, wrestling with the issue of pain, writes, “These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine...” (1 Peter 1:7) Incredible hope flows from the two simple words: so that! (Actually, in the Greek there is just one word.)
The picture Peter provides is of a goldsmith heating the fire under the crucible to melt gold so that the impurities would be released, float to the top, and be discarded. The goldsmith intentionally heated the fire so that the gold would become pure, more beautiful, and more valuable. The process was finished when the goldsmith could clearly see his reflection in the gold.
So that tells us there is value, purpose, and benefit to our pain and suffering. God is not out to get us. He is not toying with us or playing with our emotions. He has a plan and although our sin, the sins of others, and the realities of living in a difficult world are causing our pain, He is using our struggle to accomplish positive outcomes in our lives.
God does not want us to waste our pain. He provides opportunities within our trauma to refine our faith. The simple purpose statement – so that – assures us that God is working out His grand plan to bring good things out of bad. Rather than a meaningless void, the events of our lives unfold God’s purpose of making us and others better.
Paul puts it this way: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).
We may never understand the grand design God is developing in and through our lives – or this world. But we can rest assured that He is not wasting our pain. God uses our suffering to refine us, purify us, make our lives more beautiful, and give us greater value.
Refueling in Flight Ministries, Inc